CISM Soccer Canada paves new path for sport


Courtesy Maple Leaf ~

The following article is the first of a three part series chronicling CISM Soccer Canada’s journey to becoming the best sports program in International Military Sports Council (CISM) Canada. This article provides insight into the preliminary efforts to reinvigorate a fading international sports platform deemed by many as “exclusive”, “amateur” and carrying the stigma of military tourism.

The CISM Soccer Canada project has taken over 42 months to reap the rewards of its re-branding, new strategy, and marketing efforts. 

For decades, Canada’s military team continuously lost the sport’s biggest events, such as the America’s Cup, the Military World Games and the World Football Trophy, with a goal differential in high double-digit figures. 

During this year’s Military World Games, Canada lost 4-0 (Oman), 2-1 (Greece) and 3-0 (Egypt).  While the scores are not eye-catching, these results amounted to a historic achievement. For decades, CISM Soccer Canada members suffered lop-sided defeats and returned to Canada feeling deflated, embarrassed, and ostracized back at the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) workplace.

Some people in the CAF community considered the program to be military tourism. Many within CISM even considered the team as “privileged participants”. 

In March 2016, new management spearheaded a four-year strategic roadmap that drove a new vision seeking respect and dissolving the stereotypes that plagued the CAF’s national soccer team.

The project’s first effort was re-branding the name. CISM Soccer Canada marketed back to the CAF soccer community that it was “inclusive”. A strategic communication plan spread across various social media outlets carried the new motto: No limits on what you can be, do and have. 

CISM Soccer Canada executives led a new culture of “team before self”, “sacrifice” and “second family”, and authenticated the philosophy throughout coaches, players, scouting, and training events, and regional and national soccer championships.

Management then focused on the development and growth of base-level soccer through a grassroots program.

They concentrated on both regional base coaches, who volunteer countless hours of personal time, and its relationship with Personnel Support Programs (PSP). The program partnered with the Ontario Soccer Association and worked in collaboration with local PSP agencies to deliver the first-ever Soccer for Life course at Canadian Forces Base Borden in September 2016. The initiative demonstrated an organizational will to grow the game from within via an accredited educational pathway.

In three years, CISM Soccer Canada empowered over 25 CAF soccer coaches to earn an accredited certificate at no cost to its members. These efforts inspired a dramatic improvement in the quality of soccer being taught across military bases.

While the programmatic shift began to re-connect CISM Soccer Canada with vital regional change agents, an equally important step of establishing an official evaluation system needed to take place. 

The second article in the series will highlight their efforts to grow their player and coaching pool while driving towards an improved fitness level, and returning accountability to both the staff and the players. 

Finally, the series will conclude with how CISM Soccer Canada used cost-effective measures to create an exceptional learning environment optimizing on CAF and external resources; ultimately returning a physically and mentally accomplished leader back to the CAF.

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